I have noted in the past how prestigious organizations sometimes spew misinformation about the risks of smokeless tobacco; I have been especially critical of individuals representing the Mayo Clinic, the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

Now, e-cigarettes are being institutionally maligned, as in a particularly egregious Dec. 11 attack-by-press-release from New York University. Under the dramatic headline, “NYU Researchers are Lifting the Veil on the Hidden Health Impact of Electronic Cigarettes,” a professor was quoted as saying:

Due to the frequency of puffing, depth of inhalation, and length of vaping, e-cig users may actually absorb higher concentrations of nicotine and other toxins than conventional tobacco smokers.

This allegation is demonstrably false. Numerous published studies comparing e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke reveal that the latter contains much higher concentrations of nicotine and toxic agents (this is one of many examples). I am not aware of any legitimate study suggesting that vapor is more toxic than cigarette smoke.

The NYU press release obtained wide dissemination in the world’s media.

E-cigarettes are used by millions of individuals throughout the world, the vast majority of them former smokers. The apparently authoritative press release falsely informed them that vaping is more dangerous than smoking. Based on this misinformation, it is likely that some vapers will abandon e-cigarettes and start smoking, which will constitute a public health tragedy.

It is remarkable that NYU’s press release revealed that Drs. Lin and Deepak Saxena were planning to “collect saliva and oral mucosa from College of Dentistry patients who are e-cig users to determine the relative abundance of oral bacteria and changes in DNA in these patients in order to compare them with the effects found among conventional cigarette smokers.” There is no record that either researcher conducted prior research on the use of e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product.

Because NYU orchestrated the global dissemination of this false claim of vaping danger, I asked school officials to issue a press release retracting the statement. They did not respond.

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